The Ultimate Guide To SEO Basics

mac laptop on bed with coffee

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the process of driving high-quality traffic to your site via organic search. Everyone, bloggers and businesses alike, can implement basic SEO features onto their website, without needing to know any fancy code or have a mind-blowing website design (although that helps).

The first step of any SEO process is keyword research – this gives you an idea of the search terms and phrases you should be using on your website. Once you know what keywords you should use, you can apply them to the 5 basic SEO features.

RELATED: What Is SEO And How Does It Work?

How To Do Basic SEO:

URL structure

A little bit like a flow chart or family tree, your website will have a URL hierarchy structure. The more clear and clean your URL hierarchy is, the better. This is because it helps create clear paths for Google bots to crawl your site.

For example, your About page will probably be yourwebsite.com/about. This means it sits directly under your Home page. If you have a blog or news section on your website, the URL of each blog post should be structured so that they fit under the overall blog or news page. For example, yourwebsite.com/blog/blog-title.

This works a little differently if your website is a blog, but even still, all of your blog posts should be organised into categories to give your website structure. For example, this blog post is part of my ‘Blogging’ category, so has a URL of thetaleofyaya.com/blogging/seo-basics-guide.

You want to keep your URLs as simple but instructive as possible. Long, messy URLs with random numbers, letters and symbols not only look ugly and offputting to users, but it also means you’re missing out on a chance to target some relevant keywords within your URLs.

As much as possible, the main target keyword for each blog post or article should in the URL. You still want your URL to be as concise and readable as possible though. That’s why the URL for this blog post is thetaleofyaya.com/blogging/seo-basics-guide and not thetaleofyaya.com/blogging/the-ultimate-seo-basics-guide-for-bussinesses-and-bloggers. This keeps it neat, clear and relevant.

RELATED: How To Do Keyword Research For SEO

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Title Tags

The title tag of a page on a website is the blue hyperlinked text which shows up on Google search results. It’s what you click to go onto a website. Think of it like the concise, accurate description of what the page is about. Here’s the title tag for The Tales Of Yaya homepage:

title tags example

Title tags are a great place to show the world what you do and to get in front of your target audience. A well-written title tag will entice users to click on your link and explore your site. Whereas, a spammy-looking, unattractive title tag will send you to the bottom pages of Google.

If you haven’t set a title tag for each page of your website, Google will automatically fill it using whatever information it can find from the on-page content. Why is this bad? Title tags play an important role in helping search engines understand what each page contains, so you should use it to your full advantage!

It’s also the first impression users get of your page, and can also affect how that page is displayed in social media sharing when you share your content across your social profiles.

How to write title tags

First off, get the length right. Ideally, your title tag should be between 50-60 characters. Anything after this is likely not be shown in search engine results. You can use Moz’s Title Tag Tool to check how much of your title tag will show on Google’s search results.

Second, write a unique title for each page. Don’t just stick the name of the page at the front followed by the same message (e.g. ‘Home’, ‘About’, ‘Contact’). Each page is different, so each one needs an individual title tag. Otherwise, you’re risking Google picking you up for duplicate title tags, which is not a good practice when it comes to modern SEO.

Third, try to stick some keywords in there. Keyword research is at the heart of SEO. It’s essentially looking into what users are typing into Google to find the service, product or content they’re looking for.

Keywords closer to the beginning of your title tag have more impact on your search rankings. Also, it’s the first few words users will read and will make a snap decision from as to whether your website is useful or not. So make them count!

The best plugin for editing title tags is Yoast, hands down. Once installed and activated, at the bottom of every page and blog post you’ll find a little box labelled ‘Snippet Preview’ (like the image below). Click the edit snippet button to insert your new URL slug, title tag and meta description. Speaking of which …

screenshot of Yoast metadata editor tool

RELATED: How To Choose The Right Keywords For SEO

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are the short descriptions under the title tags which are displayed in search results. To keep things consistent, here’s the meta description for The Tales Of Yaya homepage:

meta description example

Meta descriptions are important because they can convince users to click your link. Again, if you don’t designate the meta description, Google will end up filling this for you without whatever it can find on your page. It’s not unusual to see meta descriptions being filled with addresses, phone numbers and random bits of text instead of an attractive message to encourage users to visit that site.

How to write meta descriptions

Just like with title tags, meta descriptions have a word limit. If you’re not watching your word count, that brilliant meta description could trail off into ‘…’ if you go over the character limit.

Optimum lengths for meta descriptions are between 150-160 characters. Although for mobile search results this is much shorter, somewhere between the 130-140 character mark. As Google moves towards indexing the mobile version of websites first over the desktop version, it’s a good idea to write your meta descriptions and title tags for mobile search results – meaning that you should ensure they are the correct lengths to show on mobile instead of desktop.

Your meta description should accurately summarise the page or blog post. If your meta description says ‘British travel blogs for globetrotting career girls’, but your page displays baking recipes, users will automatically click the dreaded back button and go somewhere else.

Why? Your site hasn’t provided the content they’re looking for, all because your meta description didn’t represent what your page was actually about. This also means that the meta descriptions for each page should be unique. So don’t even think about copy and pasting the same one for every page of your site!

RELATED: Best Free Keyword Research Tools

mac laptop on bed with coffee

Headings

Your title tag is the headline that shows up in search engine results. But that doesn’t mean you can be lazy and not use headings across your website. For one, when used correctly, headings are a great way to tell Google what information that page contains by including the target keywords, as well as formatting the page to make it more readable for your users. So make the most of them!

Unlike title tags and meta descriptions, there’s no character length with headings, although short, snappy headings are favoured over longer ones.

Your h1 (<h1> tag) should summarise the page’s content. On your homepage, your h1 should be the name of your business or blog. For the main pages of your website such as your About, Contact, Products, or Category pages (if you have a blog) your h1s might be the name of that page – for example, ‘About’, ‘Contact Us’, and ‘Products’. For blog posts, the h1 will be the title of the blog post, e.g. ‘The Ultimate Guide To SEO Basics’.

The rest of the headings should be used to format the page as subheadings. Make sure these are either h2s or lower, as you should only have one h1 per page!

Page content

When users come onto your site, they are looking for something. It might be an answer to a question, a service or product, or more information about what you do. The content on the pages of your website is one of the best ways to entice and inform users, providing them with the information they’re looking for. And your users are not the only ones looking at it – Google is too.

The content of your page is crawled by Google bots to decipher what that webpage contains. When you have a small amount of content that doesn’t tell users or Google very much, you’re unlikely to rank highly on search engine results or impress your visitors.

Each page should have unqiue, tailored content designed specifically for that page’s purpose. Your homepage will have a different purpose to your articles about ‘Best travel Destinations 2019’ or your ‘About’ page. The first step to writing great on-page content is to work out what purpose each page serves, and who it’s addressing. Once you’ve worked that out, you can set about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and create great page content for your website.

Longer, useful and informative content is favoured over thin, irrelevant content. Remember, your on-page content is serving a purpose – to inform users about your brand, to answer a question, to promote an event – so writing 100 words or so isn’t going to cut it. Instead, aim for the 500 word mark if not longer.

Write as naturally as possible, including keywords in the text in an organic way to avoid keyword stuffing and coming across as spammy. It’s also a good idea to format the text by separating it out into different paragraphs and using headings where appropriate to make it more readable for users.

RELATED: How To Optimise Your Content For Search Intent Targeting

Alt text

Last but not least, alt text. Alternative text is the text you use to mark your images with. It’s used to describe to users who can’t see the image what the photo is. But it’s also another place where you can optimise the page to make it as SEO-friendly as possible.

The alt text of an image should accurately describe what the image shows. So you can’t say that an image shows ‘SEO Basics Guide’ when in fact it’s an image of a woman at a laptop. But what you can do is add a keyword or two into the alt text where it fits. This works really well for product images, as adding alt text can help your products show up in image search results.

And there you have it – the basic features of SEO. Well done for getting to the end of the article, that was a long one! But now you are more equipped to implementing effective SEO strategies into your own website or blog. I’d love to hear about how you get on with these tips, so please put any success stories or questions in the comments below!

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